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Report Finds Major Weaknesses in California Kids' Well-Being Remain despite Recent Efforts

Economic Outcomes Tied to Fixing Problems in State's System of Supports for Children

OAKLAND, Calif., Jan. 7, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A new study provides a complete evaluation of the current status of California's kids to ensure that the state's leaders make sound policy decisions and keep kids a priority in 2014 and beyond. Released today by Children Now, the 2014 California Children's Report Card offers a detailed assessment of the advancements made in 2013 and a path forward as the Governor and Legislature begin to plan their agendas for the year.

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"The declining status of kids in California is the biggest threat to the health and economy of our state," said Ted Lempert, President of Children Now. "Californians across the board want to see children doing better and we need to hold the state's policymakers more accountable this year for making that happen."

The report covers 27 critical education, health and child welfare issues to highlight the reality that multiple, overlapping factors determine how kids are faring. Each issue area is defined, measured and graded – from A to F. For example, the report gives the issue of school finance reform a B-, recognizing the Local Control Funding Formula, passed in 2013, as a significant step in the right direction. But the related issue of K-12 investments gets a D, given the gap between California and the national average for per pupil spending – a strong predictor of academic outcomes – has widened substantially in recent years.

While the Report Card gives its highest grade, a B+, to children's health insurance coverage, it also shows health care access for the half of all California children who will be covered by Medi-Cal in 2014 remains a problem, giving this issue a C-. The report highlights that California's Medicaid spending per child is well below the national average and third lowest in the nation, resulting in too few providers serving Medi-Cal kids due to low reimbursement rates.

"The Report Card provides policymakers and the public with a clearer picture of how kids in our state are actually doing today, showing that a number of interdependent issues need to be addressed to really begin improving things for them," said Lempert. "When you consider that California ranks 11th nationally in per capita state and local tax revenues, but is ranked well below the national spending averages on the fundamental health and education components of children's well-being, there's a very strong case for adjusting our budget and policymaking priorities this year."

Other issues covered in the report and the grades they received range from oral health (D+) to Common Core implementation (B-) and teacher training and evaluation (D) to the health of foster youth (D+). Additional examples of the data and analysis provided include:

  • Children who attend high-quality preschools have higher high school graduation rates, higher lifetime earnings and are less likely to spend time in the criminal justice system. But, among California's 3- and 4-year-olds most likely to benefit from preschool, only 15% were attending high-quality, center-based programs.
  • 7 of the 10 fastest growing occupations are in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields and, by 2020, the demand in California for employees in STEM jobs is projected to be roughly 1 million. Yet, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress tests, 75% of California's 8th graders are not proficient in national math standards, meaning they aren't learning what they need to in order to succeed in today's economy.
  • Developmental screenings are critically important for identifying delays or disabilities early in their onset. However, within 1 year, 72% or 1.7 million of California's youngest children did not receive any of the developmental screenings that are recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
  • Health care services offered at schools are especially important for children who lack routine access to a health care provider, such as the 1.8 million (19%) children in California who don't receive appropriate preventive medical care. Most school-based health services are provided in school-based health centers (SBHCs). Currently, only 2% of California's schools have a SBHC.

The report also points out that polling consistently shows strong public support for improving children's health and educational outcomes, and that a deep research base and the experiences of other states and countries shows investments in quality programs for kids would more than pay for themselves in terms of increased earnings and revenues, a stronger overall economy and decreased healthcare, corrections and other public costs later on.

The full report is available online at: www.childrennow.org/reportcard.

Children Now is the leading, nonpartisan, umbrella research, policy development, and advocacy organization dedicated to promoting children's health and education in California and creating national media policies that support child development. The organization also leads The Children's Movement of California. Learn more about us at www.childrennow.org.

SOURCE Children Now

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